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Same-sex marriage

The National Organization for
Marriage's
television ad: 2009-APR

Sponsored link.


Background:

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) launched a 60 second TV ad titled "A Gathering Storm" on 2009-APR-08. According to OneNewsNow, a fundamentalist Christian news source, the ad is part of a $1.5 million ad campaign being shown in 2009-Spring to "protect marriage and religious liberty throughout the nation."

NOM's name appears to be a strange choice. They are definitely in favor of most marriages -- those involving opposite-sex couples. However, their main focus is to oppose other marriages -- those formed by loving, committed, same-sex couples. In the interest of accuracy, "National Organization Against Same-sex Marriage" would have been a far better name for their group to select. However, there is an unwritten rule that organizations and legislative bills must always have names that contain a positive spin, even when their main goal is negative.

NOM holds one belief in common with the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community: both view same-sex marriage (SSM) as a major civil rights issue. But they have an entirely different take on exactly whose civil rights are being attacked:

bulletLGBTs generally believe that they are the victims, since they are being denied the many rights, obligations, protections, and privileges of marriage in most states of the U.S. Loving committed same-sex couples cannot obtain the hundreds of state rights and benefits and the over 1,000 federal rights for themselves and their children. These are the rights that opposite-sex married couples automatically receive.
 
bulletNOM suggests that fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians are the real victims. They see the GLBT community as posing a massive threat to Christians' religious rights.

Three such rights are mentioned in the TV ad:
bullet The right of a physician to discriminate against LGBTs in the provision of health services that she or he supplies to the general population.
 
bullet The right of church groups to discriminate against GLBT's in the provision of services that they provide to the general population.
 
bulletThe right of parents to require their local public school board to restore past policies of teaching discrimination against the GLBT community.

The one theme running through much of the ad is religious liberty. However, it is not religious liberty in the historical sense of freedom of belief, expression and/or association. The ad deals primarily with the religious freedom to discriminate against women and minorities.

This is ironic because the vast majority of NOM supporters strongly identify themselves either with Christianity or with another major world religion. All of these religions share an ethic of reciprocity. This is called the Golden Rule in Christianity. These ethics of reciprocity suggest that everyone treat others as they would themselves like to be treated. Without such an ethic, society cannot function effectively. However, NOM is promoting the opposite ethic: that Americans treat others exactly opposite to the way in which they would wish to be treated.

As election day in 2012 approached, NOM introduced a very different video ad titled "Marriage = Biology (not bigotry)." It takes a different approach by promoting the benefits to society of "natural" marriage. This is one woman married to one man who conceive children together whose DNA are a mixture of the two parents' DNA. What NOM doesn't mention is that by condemning all other marriages as worthless, they are denigrating not only all same-sex couples but a much larger number of marriages involving opposite-sex couples who are infertile or who decide to not have children. More details.

The 2009 NOM ad: "A Gathering Storm:"

NOM has over 15 additional videos on YouTube, many of which dated back to 2008 and deal with Proposition 8 in California. The videos have not been well received by the YouTube community, receiving an average viewer rating of 1.2 stars. Ratings can run from 1 to 5 stars. 3,4

A rebuttal of the NOM ad by GoodAsYou.org (GAY.org):

The NOM ad has produced a few rebuttals. The following ad uses individual frames from the NOM ad while substituting their own sound track to give an opposing message.

A parody of the NOM ad:

This video replaces the references to gender and sexual orientation with race. Thus, discussion of same-sex marriage (SSM) becomes  a conversation about inter-racial marriage. This parody very effectively destroys the NOM message. The effect is rather humorous.  A highlight of this ad is when a female actor states: "I am a California doctor who must choose between my racism and my job."

Other parodies include two by SeanChapin1 and CRACKaLAKINfilms.

And one that is just plain funny:

A Gaythering Storm by Jane Lynch

Text and setting of the NOM ad:

It starts by showing ominous, black storm clouds in the background, with a group of concerned persons -- one child and a group of adults -- standing rigidly as if paralyzed by fear. There is the occasional flash of lightning in the background. The female actors are dressed conservatively; many of the male actors are in suits. All speak, in a very serious tone:

bullet"There's a storm gathering."
bullet"The clouds are dark and the winds are strong."
bullet"And I am afraid."
bullet"Some who advocate for same-sex marriage have taken the issue far beyond same-sex couples."
bullet"They want to bring the issue into my life."
bullet"My freedom will be taken away"
bullet"I am a California doctor who must choose between my faith and my job."
bullet"I am part of a New Jersey church group punished by the government because we cannot support same-sex marriage."
bullet"I am a Massachusetts parent helplessly watching public schools teach my son that gay marriage is OK."
bullet"But those who advocate for same-sex marriage have not been content with same-sex couples living as they wish."
bullet"Those advocates want to change the way I live."
bullet(Vulnerable, dejected girl): "I will have no choice."
bullet"The -- storm -- is -- coming."

At this point, the storm clouds lift and the sun disperses the clouds.

Damon Owens of the National Organization for Marriage says in a very optimistic tone:

bullet"But we have hope. A rainbow coalition of every creed and color are [sic] coming together, in love, to protect marriage. Visit NationForMarriage.org. Join us."

There use of the term "rainbow coalition" is ironic. All "rainbow coalitions" of which we are aware, from Jessie Jackson's group in 1984 to modern-day GLBT groups promote equality rather than discrimination.

An analysis of statements made in the NOM ad:

bulletIn the past, religious and social conservatives have fought same-sex marriage (SSM) by suggesting that it posed a major threat to opposite-sex marriage and to the culture generally. That was always a hard sell. Many people rejected the idea that their marriage or family would be threatened in any way by the marriage of a same-sex couple who lived a block or more away.

This ad takes a different approach. It suggests that some dark and sinister group who have been promoting SSM are now revealing their complete agenda. They are described as being more interested in attacking people's religious freedom, changing the way they live, and eliminating their freedom of choice.

The ad then to gives three concrete examples. None are really related to freedom of religious beliefs, speech or assembly. All involve the freedom of religious conservative to discriminate against the LGBT community.

Listening to the advertisement brings back memories of battles in decades past over racial discrimination, racial segregation, and marriage legislation that prohibited interracial marriage.
 
bullet The California doctor: The ad referred to a physician who experienced a conflict between her religious beliefs and her medical treatment of gays and lesbians who came to her seeking help. She was hired by a fertility clinic to help patients become pregnant through the use of artificial insemination. She wants to serve only heterosexuals. She apparently feels that lesbians should not be allowed to bear children using artificial insemination. Either way, she is motivated to discriminate against the LGBT community because of her religious beliefs. She feared losing her job because of her desire to discriminate against one group conflicted with her employer's policy of accepting all clients. She would have also been concerned about losing her job if she refused to help blacks or Jews.
 
bullet The New Jersey church member: This apparently refers to a conflict back in 2007-MAR. The Ocean Grove Boardwalk Pavilion in New Jersey was once a popular location for wedding ceremonies. Luisa Paster and Harriet Bernstein were residents of Ocean Grove and planned to hold their civil union ceremony in the Pavilion. The pavilion is owned by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a Methodist group. The Association refused to allow the couple to use their facility for only one reason: the couple are of the same sex. Luisa and Harriet maintained that the pavilion is a "public accommodation" because it had always been available for use by the general public. The Association viewed the pavilion as a church. Their policies required them to discriminate against same-sex couples. They correctly state that the recognition of same-sex relationships -- other than as roommates -- conflicts with Methodist doctrine. They claimed that their constitutional rights would be violated if they were required to permit civil unions. The Association decided to avoid future problems by denying all couples -- opposite-sex and same-sex -- access to the pavilion for wedding or civil union ceremonies. They decided to disappoint many opposite-sex couples just so that they would be free to follow the Methodist policy of discriminating against a relatively few same-sex couples.

According to Gay City News:

"In addition to banning sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, New Jersey state law specifically forbids discrimination against civil union couples by entities that provide goods and services to the public." 5

The New Jersey Division of Civil Rights ruled that the the pavilion fell under the category of a "public accommodation." The Association had received both state and federal funding on that basis. The Department of Environmental Protection revoked the Association's tax exempt status because it found that it violated an agreement that its property be open to all individuals on an equal basis. The Association filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming that its First Amendment rights of religious freedom guaranteed its right to discriminate against gays and lesbians. "U.S. District Court Judge Joel Pisano threw out the suit Nov. 8, stating that the pavilion was public property, not a religious structure."5,6 Eventually the matter was settled in 2012-FEB in favor of the lesbian couple.

If the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association had not entered into a financial agreement with the government to make the pavilion into a public accommodation, there would have been no conflict. However, they did enter into such a contract and later violated it, leaving them vulnerable to the charge.


bullet

The Massachusetts mother: She feels particularly helpless because she cannot stop her son's school from teaching him "... that gay marriage is OK." In her state, same-sex marriage is OK -- at least in a legal sense. The Massachusetts legislature made it available to same-sex couples in 2004-MAY. It has since become part of the state culture, as it has across Canada after that country legalized SSM in 2005-JUL. SSM appears to be working well in Massachusetts, because the state continues to have the lowest divorce rate of any state in the U.S.

It is obviously important that schools teach students about the institution of marriage as part of their curriculum. A full education on marriage would seem to include the three times that marriage has been redefined in the U.S., to date:

  • In the 19th century after the Civil War, African Americans were allowed to marry anywhere in the U.S.
  • In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling allowing interracial couples to marry anywhere in the U.S.
  • In 2004, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts passed legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry within the state.

Massachusetts was coerced by the state courts to follow the findings of almost all human sexuality researchers, mental health professionals, social service workers, the LGBT community, civil libertarians, religious liberals, and others who support marriage equality for persons of all sexual orientations. The mother apparently wanted the schools in the state to remain silent about same-sex marriage and thereby to imply to student that same-sex marriage was not allowed. She would require the local public school board to teach false information and to teach discrimination against the GLBT community.
 

bulletTo sum up:
bulletDoctors who serve the general public, and

bullet Religious institutions who enter into a contract to provide a public accommodation, and

bullet Parents who want the public schools to avoid teaching the full story about marriage

will find such discrimination increasingly difficult to maintain.

This is not a new problem. Over the past dozen decades American culture has evolved to drastically reduce its discrimination against women and racial minorities. Adding homophobia to the existing short list of sexism and racism as expressions that are no longer socially acceptable should not be a major hurdle. Polls indicate that the younger generations are easily accommodating this change.

A past financial and creative opportunity:

Project Pushback of the LA Gay & Lesbian Center organized a contest for filmmakers. They state:

"Here's your opportunity to help shape the discussion regarding marriage equality by creating a video that could not only influence people to support the freedom for same-sex couples to marry, but earn you $2,500 and the respect and attention of an esteemed panel of judges."

"In the months prior to the election ... [of 2008-NOV], creative supporters of marriage equality developed a number of clever videos to oppose Prop. 8. One of them, "She's the California Constitution" 7 by Homotracker, ultimately aired on television stations throughout California."

"What 60-second video would YOU create to promote marriage equality?" 8

We looked for but were unable to find a similar contest for those opposed to marriage equality.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. National Organization for Marriage's web site is at: http://www.nationformarriage.org/
  2. "A gathering storm," One News Now, at: http://www.onenewsnow.com/
  3. A list of National Organization for Marriage's YouTube videos is at: http://www.youtube.com/
  4. "Nation for Marriage? Try YouTube Nation against NOM!," Good As You, 2009-APR-10, at: http://www.goodasyou.org/
  5. Arthur S. Leonard, "Civil Union ceremony victory in Jersey's Ocean Grove," Gay City News, 2008-DEC-30, at: http://gaycitynews.com/
  6. Jeff Colletta, "Ruling supports lesbian couple in Ocean Grove," Philadelphia Gay News, 2009-JAN, at: http://www.epgn.com/
  7. "And She's the California Constitution," YouTube, at:  http://www.youtube.com/
  8. "Change the conversation on the freedom to marry," Project Pushback, at: http://laglc.convio.net/

Site navigation:

Home > Religious info. > Basic > Marriage > Same-sex marriage > here

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality> Same-sex marriage > here

Copyright © 2009 to 2012 by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Created: 2009-APR-18
Latest update: 2012-OCT-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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